Taking a road trip with kids is a completely different ballgame than without kids. The duration of your trek will be longer due to more frequent stops. Our preschooler is incredibly active, and we generally stop to stretch every hour and a half to two hours. Playgrounds, parks, giant statues, and rest areas offer great spots to get some gross motor activity.
Before you hit the road, make sure your child’s car seat is installed properly. Pack plenty of water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and jumper cables. Double check that your road assistance plan is up-to-date. Charge your phone before you hit the road. Be sure you have a good night’s sleep before you start your journey. Being tired can contribute to frazzled nerves and unsafe driving.
Comfort is key. Dress in comfortable clothing. My preschooler is potty trained, but he wears a pull-up on road trips just in case we don’t make it to a restroom in time. A wet and stinky car seat would be no fun. His pillow and blankie are must-haves.
Keep plenty of drinks and snacks on hand. On our latest road trip, we packed string cheese, yogurt, grapes, bananas, apples, Cheerios, Cheese-its, pretzels, blackberries, animal crackers, deli meat, pickles, puree fruits and vegetables, banana bread, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, water, and milk.
Organize everything for easy access on the road so you won’t have to dig around in a suitcase.
I pack some of my son’s favorite toys like dinosaurs, monster trucks, and stuffed animals. Other items to help elude boredom include a Magna Doodle sketch board, clipboard, paper, coloring books, crayons, and sticker books.
I surprise my son with a couple of small, new toys specifically for the road. It’s a long time for a child to sit in one spot. When he becomes restless, a fun new toy might do just the trick. Seeing the excitement in his face when I hand him the El Torro Loco monster truck is priceless. Redirection is key for the long haul. For longer road trips, we break out the iPad to watch movies and play games.
We also play games like “I spy”. My son enjoys spotting water towers. We listen to kid’s music. Well, for a portion of the drive that is; otherwise, we adults will go berserk. If my son is tired, we play classical music to help him wind down.
There are only so many times parents can hear, “Are we there yet?” before going mad. Try this educational game: give your child a pre-counted baggie full of tickets. Every half hour, your child can turn in one ticket to you. When the tickets are gone, the trip has ended. This helps young children get an idea of how much time is left on the journey.
Have fun and enjoy the memories you make along the way! Oh, and remember to bring PLENTY of baby wipes and napkins!